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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Quote Of The Day - New Year's Eve Edition

Dec 31st, 2011
"Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true."
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Real Human Cost Of The Iraq War -- The American Side

Dec 30th, 2011

By now you've surely seen the official Pentagon figures for those killed (4,487) and wounded (32,226) in the disastrous Iraq War. Dan Froomkin explains what's wrong with the picture they paint:

"The death count is accurate. But the wounded figure wildly understates the number of American servicemembers who have come back from Iraq less than whole."

He has done his homework:

"The Pentagon's Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports having diagnosed 229,106 cases of mild to severe traumatic brain injury from 2000 to the third quarter of 2011, including both Iraq and Afghan vets.

A 2008 study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that 14 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 14 percent for major depression, with 19 percent reporting a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. (The researchers found that major depression is "highly associated with combat exposure and should be considered as being along the spectrum of post-deployment mental health consequences.") Applying those proportions to the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq, an estimated 200,000 of them would be expected to suffer from PTSD or major depression, with 285,000 of them having experienced a probable traumatic brain injury.

America Loves "Progressives"

Dec 30th, 2011

The results of a recent PEW Center poll are pretty interesting. A higher number of respondents have a positive reaction to the word "progressive" than any other political term they were offered.

The Iowa Circus, cont...

Dec 30th, 2011

Yesterday, I wrote that I thought Rep. Bachmann's handling of the news that her Iowa campaign Chairman, Kent Soreson, had defected to the Ron Paul camp was "crazy and conspiratorial." I resisted the urge to declare that I believed it to be an outright lie. However, Mike Enos, Bachmann's political director in Iowa, issued a denial that nearly seemed to do just that:

"I can say unequivocally that Kent Sorenson’s decision was, in no way financially motivated," Enos said in his statement. "While I personally disagree with Kent’s decision, and plan to stay with Michele Bachmann because I truly believe in her, I cannot, in good conscious watch a good man like Kent Sorenson be attacked as a 'sell-out.'"

Despite his stated intention of remaining with her campaign team, he later resigned. This seems to indicate that he was purged from the campaign for insisting on rational truth.

Rep. Bachmann is, unsurprisingly, doubling down:

"No one else knows about that conversation other than Kent Sorenson and myself."

It's extremely implausible that Bachmann would not have revealed this conversation to her team immediately to begin planning damage control. The reaction of Enos and his subsequent break from her team expose not only Bachmann's executive inability but, also her apparent mental instability.

The Ron Paul camp insists her claim is fiction. Paul himself is quoted by KCAU:

"He called up and asked if he could join us and I said 'That's a great idea!' He's somebody I've known for a long time and we've helped him in the past."

Sorenson appeared on CNN to declare that the alleged conversation "never happened."

I am no fan of Ron Paul. I find him absurd. But, Bachmann is coming out of this looking both desperate and delusional.

With four days to go before the Iowa Circus, I expect this all to get even more entertaining.

How The Deficit Exploded

Dec 30th, 2011

HT to The Dish for reminding everyone about this today.

The GOP's Alienation Problem

Dec 30th, 2011

In Political Currents, Adam C. Smith writes:

"Republican consultant Carlos Curbelo of Miami said the nominee should have plenty of time to pivot into general election posture, but the primary campaign has done little to help broaden the party’s appeal.

“The Republican candidates are speaking to a very, very small audience right now that is going to vote for the ticket in November anyway,” Curbelo said. “Certainly with regard to Hispanic voters all these debates and the primary process in general has been, if anything, harmful to Republicans."

Ya think?

Quote Of The Day

Dec 30th, 2011

"Advertising is legalized lying." 
-- H. G. Wells

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gold!!! cont...

Dec 29th, 2011

More on the growing crisis via IndiaInfoLine:

"Gold plummeted yet again today; witnessing a free fall to extend its mega downward lurch towards its September lows. The metal has been getting hammered amid year end trades and the primary influencing factor is yet again the US dollar. Dollar broke under 1.2900 levels against the Euro today, extending its recent rally to test fresh highs for the current year as European stock markets pared earlier gains after mixed results from the auction of Italian longer-dated government bonds. Yields on three and 10-year debt fell as Italy sold €7.017 billion ($9.07 billion) in the auction, though the amount fell short of the expected €8.5 billion. "


Dec 29th, 2011

One more time, gold is a commodity.

It is not magic, ever-rising-value metal. It was never going to not drop as a tradeable element.

Someone tell both Ron Paul and Glenn Beck to shut up for a minute and consider just how much damage their fear-mongering has likely caused. Think about it. Using convenient alarmism, they elevated the paranoia and distrust of our "fiat currency" to heights previously only seen in John Birch Society meetings. And people reacted.

How many Americans liquidated other, more stable assets to put it all into gold? How many people bought gold in September of this year and are now being wiped out?

Go to MoneyWeek. Here's what the situation looks like over the last month.

David Frum has his own chart from MoneyWeek (it's interactive and you should go check it out). He is seriously appalled:

"The price of gold dropped $31 an ounce yesterday. Gold has dropped $400 since the summer. Gold still shows gains over one year ago. And of course people who bought gold at the prices that prevailed before 2008 can claim profits of 50% or better on their investment. (NB: The best returns have flowed to large-scale investors who eschewed physical gold in favor of futures. And as always, coins are for suckers.)

Further declines look likely. Gold sales have plunged in India, the world’s largest market for gold jewelry. The rupee has steeply declined against the dollar, raising the cost of gold to Indian customers. Traders are speculating that India’s gold imports could tumble by possibly half.

Gold is a uniquely strange asset, because so many people in the gold market buy gold as a matter of ideology and identity. Cocoa, copper, or cotton trade as commodities. Gold trades as a way to make a statement. That’s simply not a sensible way to invest. A great many Americans are paying a steep price – and may pay a much steeper price yet – for allowing hucksters and ideologues to sway their economic judgment."

The Iowa Circus

Dec 29th, 2011

The latest round of crazy involves a bit player making a big splash just ahead of the Iowa GOP caucus. The Des Moines Register reports:

"In a stunning, late-breaking Iowa caucus turnabout, the state chairman for presidential candidate Michele Bachmann ditched her campaign Wednesday night to endorse Ron Paul, a rival in the race for the GOP nomination.

The defection of Kent Sorenson, an Iowa state senator, came just six days before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, and caught the Bachmann campaign by surprise. Sorenson had chaired Bachmann’s caucus efforts here for months, and even attended a Bachmann event in Indianola on Wednesday afternoon just hours before appearing at a Paul rally in Des Moines to announce his endorsement."

Quote Of The Day

Dec 29th, 2011

"A genuine man goes to the roots. To be a radical is no more than that: to go to the roots."
-- Jose Marti

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quote Of The Day 2

Dec 28th, 2011

"Libertarians are just Republicans that want to smoke pot and get laid."
-- Thom Hartmann

A Look At The Lobbyists

Dec 28th, 2011

Newsmeat has a ranking by win/loss ratio of wealthy donors to American political campaigns and causes.

It's worth checking out if you are curious who's doing the best job of buying our government.

The Best Speech Ever Given

Dec 28th, 2011

A stunning reworking of the climactic last monologue from Charles Chaplin's "The Great Dictator."

Quote Of The Day

Dec 28th, 2011

"Man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep."
-- Mohandas Gandhi

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

GOP Panic, cont...

Dec 27th, 2011

If you haven't read Bill Kristol's latest, do yourself a favor and keep it that way. Titling it "A Time For Choosing," Mr. Kristol lectures the early primary and caucus voter:

"Ignore the proclamations of the pundits, the sophistries of the strategists, and the calculations of the handicappers. Ignore the ads, the robocalls, and the polls. Be skeptical of those who would seek, whether from national stage or local perch, cavalierly or presumptively to instruct you how to mark your ballot. That ballot is yours alone to cast."

Got that, average GOP voter? Ignore whatever you've learned about the worst slate of candidates for your party's nomination in living memory.

Here's his real message, however, and it's not for the electorate:

"And it is a moment, as you prepare to cast your vote, for others to reflect on whether they don’t owe it to their country to step forward. As this is no time for voters to choose fecklessly, it is no time for leaders to duck responsibility. Those who have stood aside—and who now may have concluded, as they may not have when they announced their original decision, that the current field is lacking—will surely hear the words of Thomas Paine echoing down the centuries: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Now is not a time for leaders to engage in clever calculations of the odds of success, or to succumb to concerns about how they will look if they enter the fray and fall short. Now is a time to come to the aid of our country."

It's depressingly entertaining witnessing Kristol convolute himself in such a manner. In only a few short and overly florid paragraphs, he moves from 'don't listen to the pundits' to 'for the love of God, somebody who can win, please listen to me and get into the race before it's too late.'

If he's this panicked now, one can only imagine what he'll be writing by Summer.

Newt's Christmas Video

Dec 27th, 2011

Ummm... This is truly painful to watch

Quote Of The Day 2

Dec 27th, 2011

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
-- Article VI of the U.S. Constitution

Today in WTF?

Dec27th, 2011

What you are about to see is, apparently, an actual, genuine, we-are-not-making-this up, trailer for a real movie in post-production or just ahead of release right now.

Psst... the first "teaser" trailer is all about the pigeon.

This is nuts...

I honestly don't know what to make of this... that said, this is either the most clever and brilliant reworking of Rocky II ever made or evidence that any group of sick maniacs can get a movie made if they want it badly enough.

It's got Udo Keir... It could plausibly be alternatively titled, "Earth Vs. The Nazi Flying Saucers."

I am not sure whether to throw up or giggle at such hubris.

Obama's Numbers Are Up

Dec 27th, 2011

For the first time since July, Gallup's daily Presidential approval polling has Obama's positives outweighing the negatives, 47% to 45%. A couple of other prominent polls put the approval number slightly higher. It seems fairly obvious that the payroll tax cut fiasco has helped his position.

Screenshot - original, interactive version available at Gallup

The Birth Of The "Action Figure"

Dec 27th, 2011

Earlier, we posted the viral video of a tough little girl complaining about gender coding in children's toys... this seemed worth posting as well.

It's The Inequality, Stupid, cont...

Dec 27th, 2011

Eric Byler offers a theory after reading Peter Whoriskey's article on the growing wealth gap between our country's elected and its governed:

"Establishing the causal connection between income inequality and political polarization will require further study, the article says. And, I want you to read the entire piece, which includes evocative profiles that humanize eye-popping statistics — i.e., the average wealth of Members of Congress has increased 250% since 1984 while that of the average American family has gone down slightly. But allow me to offer a brief hypothesis:

The disastrous fiscal policies of the past 30 years — which have lavished America’s ruling class with unprecedented riches while hammering our middle class to a degree not seen since the days leading up to the Great Depression — simply would not have been possible without massive doses of political entertainment that have distracted and divided us into either failing to notice or failing to respond.

I've chosen the term "1% Media" for this indescribably vast body of news/entertainment content because it tends to reflect the perspective and, arguably, the agenda of the fortunate few who possess the immense wealth required to produce and disseminate it. During the past three decades, as constant streams of increasingly incendiary soap opera disguised as political commentary, or, worse, "news," have flooded the minds of 1% Media consumers, we have seen our culture, and perhaps the American electorate, transform. Consumers of 1% Media have become reliable voters, and, the most vocal and most malleable advocates for the policies and candidates presented to them on TV and radio. And, we have seen seen Members of Congress openly pander to this audience, not only in their rhetoric but also in their policy positions. They do this, despite their abysmal poll numbers, either because they actually believe in the political soap operas in which they star, or because they fear the entrenched apparatus that writes the script."

I am inclined to agree.

Quote Of The Day - Here and Now Edition

Dec 27th, 2011

"May I submit that you can't seriously hope to be the leader of the free world if you can't even get your crap together to get your name on the ballot? No one should take you seriously in Iowa if we know you're not even going to be on the ballot in Virginia."

-- BooMan, adding his two cents over the epic failure on the part of Newt and Perry to secure a position on Virginia primary ballot. He also notes that Huntsman, Santorum and Bachmann never even submitted any signatures.

Voices Of The Future

Dec 27th, 2011

A huge H/T to Jezebel for this video of a small girl calling bullshit on gender based color coding of children's toys.

It's The Inequality, Stupid

Dec 27th, 2011

Everyone is talking about Peter Whoriskey's WaPo piece examining the growing divide between the increasingly wealth of elected officials in D.C. and the relative declines experienced by most of  this country's citizens:

"Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House rose by more than 2 1 / 2 times, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home ­equity.

Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan."

Here's what it looks like in chart form. Click the image for a better view.
Image via WaPo

Revolving Doors

Dec 27th, 2011

A disconcerting look at some of the Goldman Sachs connections to the Obama Administration

Cool News From Pluto

Dec 27th, 2011

Apparently, our most distant orbital neighbor (I still call it a planet, dammit) may be the scene of some pretty remarkable developments. reports via Yahoo:

Image via Fox
"The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted new evidence of complex organic molecules — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it — on the frigid surface of Pluto, a new study finds.

Hubble observations revealed that some substances on Pluto's surface are absorbing more ultraviolet light than expected. The compounds in question may well be organics, possibly complex hydrocarbons or nitrogen-containing molecules, researchers said.

The dwarf planet Pluto is known to harbor ices of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen on its surface. The ultraviolet-absorbing chemical species may have been produced when sunlight or super-speedy subatomic particles known as cosmic rays interacted with these ices, researchers said.

"This is an exciting finding because complex Plutonian hydrocarbons and other molecules that could be responsible for the ultraviolet spectral features we found with Hubble may, among other things, be responsible for giving Pluto its ruddy color," study leader Alan Stern, of theSouthwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said in a statement."

Quote Of The Day

Dec 27th, 2011

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes"
-- Maggie Kuhn

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reading Around

Dec 26th, 2011

We're taking a little more time to relax over the next few days but we figured you might still want to rake some muck.

Cheers and Happy Holidays.

The Ron Paul "newsletter scandal" continues to grow. Good reads HERE, HERE and HERE.

While this year saw a majority of Americans supporting gay marriage for the first time and an even larger percentage backing the repeal of the Pentagon's DADT policy, the most dramatic sign of how much the LGBT community has achieved came in the form of a kiss, photos and video of which went viral. Another step forward.

Regrettably, it didn't take long for the spittle-dribble crowd to push back. In related news, Michigan's despotic Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law a prohibition against any state agency using funds for domestic partner benefits. Another step back.

The GOP is rallying around a call to return to the Bush Era's utterly discredited "abstinence only" education programs.

Check out Occupy This Heart, a great tumblr run by a friend.

Montanans are pushing to recall their Senators over their support of the 2012 NDAA.

The EPA has finally issued what everyone seems to insist on referring to as "new standards" for mercury emissions at America's power plants... 21 years after they were called for by law under the Clean Air Act.

Fundraising for the notorious Ark Encounter theme park is not going very well.

The battle lines are being drawn in South Carolina between the Department of Justice and the GOP's war on voting rights. Which makes it a good time to remind everyone of what the real threats to fair elections are, examples HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Josh Holland has a fairly righteous rant about the GOP's continuing flirtation with conspiracy theories and phony science.

Lastly, Chicago Magazine profiles the alliances between city council candidates and street gangs in the run up to this year's election.

Sleep tight.

The Mythical "Job Creators"

Dec 26th, 2011

Business Insider's Henry Blodget writes:

"The most important reason the theory that "rich people create the jobs" is absurd, argues Nick Hanauer, the founder of online advertising company aQuantive, which Microsoft bought for $6.4 billion, is that rich people do not create jobs, even if they found and build companies that eventually employ thousands of people.

What creates the jobs, Hanauer astutely observes, is a healthy economic ecosystem surrounding the company, which starts with the company's customers.

The company's customers buy the company's products, which, in turn, creates the need for the employees to produce, sell, and service those products. If those customers go broke, the demand for the company's products will collapse. And the jobs will disappear, regardless of what the entrepreneur does.

Now, of course entrepreneurs are an important part of the company-creation process. And so are investors, who risk capital in the hope of earning returns. But, ultimately, whether a new company continues growing and creates self-sustaining jobs is a function of customers' ability and willingness to pay for the company's products, not the entrepreneur or the investor capital. Suggesting that "rich entrepreneurs and investors" create the jobs, therefore, Hanauer observes, is like suggesting that squirrels create evolution.

(Or, to put it even more simply, it's like saying that a seed creates a tree. The seed does not create the tree. The seed starts the tree. But what creates the tree is the combination of the DNA in the seed and the soil, sunshine, water, atmosphere, nutrients, and other factors that nurture it. Plant the seed in an inhospitable environment, and it won't create anything. It will die.)"

But, like the Fannie and Freddie myth, this is a lie that will not die.

One more time, it's the demand crisis which is killing us.

Romney Watch - His Super PAC Goes Overboard

Dec 26th, 2011

Dave Weigel takes a look at a new wave of campaign ads attacking Newt Gingrich's stance on immigration quite disingenuously. His takeaway:

"There's a little deja vu here, because in 2007, Romney closed out the Iowa caucuses with a similar campaign. Iowans who'd fallen in love with Mike Huckabee were told of his dangerously pro-immigrant views. It didn't work. This seems to be working better. The story about Romney now is more "Gingrich reels from ad assault," less "this ad is untrue."

O'Reilly's Priorities

Dec 26th, 2011

Media Matters reports:

"Every year, "Culture Warrior" Bill O'Reilly devotes considerable time on his Fox News show to the "War on Christmas." This December, O'Reilly has covered the imaginary "War on Christmas" more than three times as much as the actual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

It's even more jarring looking at it this absurdity in chart form.

Quote Of The Day

Dec 26th, 2011

"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent."
-- Gore Vidal

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Dec 25th, 2011

"Christmas is sights, especially the sights of Christmas reflected in the eyes of a child."

-- William Saroyan

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Poem For Christmas

Dec 24th, 2011

Christmas in the Olden Time 
by Sir Walter Scott
an excert from the epic poem, Marmion, 1808

Heap on more wood! — the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deemed the new born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.
And well our Christian sires of old.
Loved when the year its course had rolled,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night:
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas eve the mass was sung;
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hail was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry men go,
To gather in the mistletoe,
Then opened wide the baron’s hail
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose.
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair!”
All hailed with uncontroll’d delight
And general voice, the happy night
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hail table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon: its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old, blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbon, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reeked: hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce
At such high tide her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visor made
But oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
’Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale,
’Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
A poor man’s heart through half the year.

Newt & Perry's Epic Ground Game Failure

Dec 24th, 2011
by F. Grey Parker

image via
Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have both failed to secure a spot on the ballot for the important Virginia GOP primary. This is the most inept ground game failure I can remember in a quarter century of watching the American process.

Both candidates are fantastically wealthy, have plenty of time to show up at the so-called "debates" (or on FOX News) and have made every other effort imaginable to stay in the limelight.

But, they didn't get enough signatures to appear on the ballot. How many are required? 10,000. What's the population of Virginia? A little over eight million.

The state wide requirement for ballot inclusion is that each candidate must have a minimum of 400 valid signatures from each of 11 congressional districts. The remainder can all come from a single district. How they could have failed is indicative of only two possible things:

A. They don't really care and this all a big joke to them. They're only real interest is to raise profile and sell books.

B. They really are that stupid and this should automatically disqualify them both from having any executive position whatsoever... ever.

We're talking about Virginia. This is a state that actually has elected a guy like Ken Cuccinelli to an office higher than dogcatcher. One of Virginia's first orders of business following the Tea Party wave in 2010 was a massive assault on women's rights and an attempted rollback of almost all protections against gender, orientation and race bias.

This is their territory. Gingrich would likely have won the state even if his star is falling.

As the GOP establishment has been increasingly disturbed by the ascendancy of Ron Paul in early polling, many have made the obvious observation that he simply has a better ground game.

The current Republican field would be wise to consider that no matter how effective FOX News has been in attempting to bring down the current President, it is not the principle mechanism with which the country will elect the next one.

The Boston DA Vs Twitter

Dec 24th, 2011

The Boston District Attorney has apparently subpoenaed twitter for a huge amount of personal information corresponding to citizens that tweeted about that city's Occupy Movement.

To the left is the cover page of their request that twitter violate the privacy of thousands of users.

Privacy SOS reports:
"On December 20, 2011, Twitter revealed to the targets that Assistant District Attorney of Suffolk County (Boston) Benjamin Goldberger had subpoenaed their account information in a document dated December 14, 2011. ADA Goldberger asked for:" 

They targeted not only specific users, but also all personal information related to several hashtags. Twitter did do the right thing. Instead of honoring the ADA's request or their demand that the subpoena be kept secret, they went public and contacted the individual targets directly.

Josh Holland writes:

"It's not Syria or Bahrain, it's Boston."

He also suggests that citizens contact ADA Goldberger and "ask him what his office is up to," with the caveat, "but you really should keep it polite -- he seems pretty litigious."

Mr. Goldberger is attempting cast a net wide enough to expose the IP addresses of anyone who had the audacity to speak about a political issue.

It's not just bullshit. It's seriously frightening bullshit.

Quote Of The Day

Dec 24th, 2011

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."
-- Calvin Coolidge

Friday, December 23, 2011

Politifact's Problem with... Facts

Dec 23rd, 2011

What's in a name?

Let's say I present a plan to eventually replace every car in America with a donkey. Then, let's say that my plan requires that donkeys are no longer to be referred to as "donkeys." From the moment the plan is completed, all donkeys must be referred to as "cars."

Quote Of The Day

Dec 23rd, 2011

"A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world."
-- John Updike

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quote Of The Day - Here and Now Edition

Dec 22nd, 2011

"There are only two possible reasons for House Republicans to behave the way they did. Maybe they are so blinded by ideology that they no longer care about the impact their actions might have on struggling American families. Or maybe their only guiding principle is that anything Obama supports, they oppose."

-- Eugene Robinson on the GOP's payroll tax cut fiasco. We covered it HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE

About Boehner Cutting The C-Span Feed...

Dec 22nd, 2011

Ann Telnaes of the WaPo gives her take on the Speaker shutting off the people's channel because it was inconveniencing him.

The Payroll Tax Cut Fiasco, cont...

Dec 22nd, 2011

No matter how Boehner tries to spin this latest development, the shenanigans detailed HEREHERE and HERE amount to tremedous damage to the GOP brand.

Video via MSNBC

Via the NY Times:

"Bowing under intense pressure from members of their own party to end the politically damaging impasse over a payroll tax holiday, House Republican leaders agreed Thursday to accept a temporary extension of the tax cut, beating a hasty retreat from a showdown that Republicans increasingly saw as a threat to their election opportunities next year."

The sheer recklessness of the fringe freshmen in the GOP controlled house makes this an issue for the next November even if congress does pass the full year extension when they return from their exceedingly long, taxpayer-funded vacations.

ABC reports:

"House Republican leaders have decided to accept a short-term extension of the payroll tax cut, preventing a hike in taxes just nine days before the tax break expires for 160 million Americans.

House GOP leaders appeared to be adopting a compromise suggested by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass the two-month extension in exchange for the Senate appointing members to a conference committee, which will negotiate a longer-term solution. The proposal won a nod of approval from President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid."

Earlier this year, I predicted the GOP was going to attempt to kill the cut. They really don't want it. That they have positioned themselves in this manner precisely as Obama's approval ratings have begun to rise dramatically is a portrait of not only extremism, but also profound ineptitude.

Quote Of The Day

Dec 22nd, 2011

"It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."
-- H. L. Mencken

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Free To Be Who They Are

Dec 21st, 2011

Speaks for itself...

The Payroll Tax Cut Fiasco, cont...

Dec 21st, 2011

Frum lashes out at the WSJ op-ed everyone is talking about:

"But if anyone is to scold on this score, it should not be the Journal – which is as responsible as any of the House members for the GOP’s payroll-tax predicament.

The GOP is in trouble because deep down, Republicans do not want to do the payroll tax holiday. They ignored the idea when it was first floated back in 2009 by conservative economists as an alternative to a spending-side fiscal stimulus. Not until President Obama adopted the idea as his own in 2010 did congressional Republicans grudgingly join in support. In the year-plus since then, Republican talkers have denigrated the holiday as ineffective and worse."

Jennifer Steinhauer reminds us:

"By turning down a bill that was overwhelmingly supported by both parties in the Senate as well as the White House, the conservative House majority that has spent the year inciting combative legislative showdowns is now staring over the brink, standing fast against legislation with significant financial consequences for nearly every American household."

We are watching the total implosion of the modern GOP. I don't think it can be overstated. The shutdown nightmare of the Gingrich years pales in comparison. It's worth remembering that particular act of petulance had more to do with the Clinton re-election than the economy did. Where do they go from here?

The Payroll Tax Cut Fiasco...

Dec 21st, 2011

First, a startlingly hostile reaction from the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal:

"GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest."

AP reports:

"Some say they’ll spend less on groceries. Others expect to cut back on travel. For many, there would be fewer meals out.

Across the country, Americans are bracing for another financial hardship: smaller paychecks starting in January, if Congress doesn’t break a deadlock and renew a Social Security tax cut."

Sullivan observes:

"The House Republicans have now all but guaranteed that taxes will go up on middle-class Americans because of what they themselves have called "high stakes poker." And this moment may as well sum up why Americans despise this Congress as deeply as they do:"

"Yep, he is literally walking away - giving Hoyer a perfect moment for the rhetorical slam-dunk.

For the GOP to vote down sustaining a tax cut - after a huge majority in the Senate and president had both signed off - and to stalk off into the Christmas vacation leaving a struggling workforce in the lurch ... well, it's a novel form of politicking, don't you think? I understand why this two-month extension is a joke, but again, that simply reveals the poker game attitude of the House GOP, refusing to do what they wouldn't even think twice about of a Republican president asked. They hate Obama so much they are willing to raise taxes! Think how deep the derangement must then go."

Perhaps the DNC should start paying the GOP for their assistance in the President's re-election.

Marin Cogan paints a picture of the GOP Freshmen as suffering from what I would describe as 'Mr. Smith Syndrome:'

"You could be forgiven for thinking that, with 10 days left before a middle class tax increase, the House GOP freshmen would be starting to sweat the political implications this game of chicken over the payroll tax holiday.

But you’d be wrong.

As they have for so many of the major legislative battles of the year, the freshmen framed the showdown with the Senate as a time to fight on principle, a prime example of why they were sent to Washington in the first place—the D.C. establishment be damned if they don’t see it similarly."

Along with 160 million citizens.

Quote Of The Day

Dec 21st, 2011

"In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule."
-- Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If You Have A Heart...

Dec 20th, 2011

... you'll probably cry.

"I imagined that I'd venture out into the jungle and get into some dangerous situation like a manly-man... I didn't expect to be gently holding yawning, orphan monkey babies while they tendererly nibbled on my fingers looking for their dead mother's milk." -- filmmaker Todd Bieber
via Jezebel

Things You Can't Make Up - Renegade Amish Edition

Dec 20th, 2011

So, what will this be remembered as? Perhaps we can call it the "Great Amish Beard War of 2012?" Maybe, "The Whisker-Schism?" One acquaintance had to suggest "Amishgeddon." Anyhoo, CBS reports:

"Twelve members of a breakaway Amish group have been charged with federal hate crimes in beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in eastern Ohio farm country.

The seven-count indictment against Samuel Mullet and 11 relatives or members of his group was announced Tuesday in Cleveland by federal prosecutors. The charges include conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering in what prosecutors say were hate crimes motivated by religious differences.

The five attacks between September and November involved cutting women's hair and men's beards and hair. That's considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.

Amish men charged in beard-cutting attacks
Men in Amish beard-cutting attacks to be held in jail without bail

Mullet, three of his sons and three others were arrested Nov. 23. Mullet's daughter, two nephews and the spouses of a nephew and a niece also are charged in the indictment.

Mullet says he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others from carrying it out."

Yes, a man named Mullet is the ringleader in this shocking display of, please forgive me, barberism.

Newt Watch - Meeting The Public, cont...

Dec 20th, 2011

Definitely one of the funniest things I have seen so far in the GOP campaign cycle. During a meet and greet with average Iowans today, one man decided to tell Newt how really feels. "Ya know somethin? You're a fucking asshole." Arguably, it was the most honest moment broadcast by CNN in the last decade.

Worth 1,000 Words

Dec 20th, 2011
Click image for better view

What Today's Payroll Tax Vote Means

Dec 20th, 2011

Allow me to register my total lack of surprise. AP reports:

"The House Tuesday rejected legislation to extend a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for two months, drawing a swift rebuke from President Barack Obama that Republicans were threatening higher taxes on 160 million American workers on Jan. 1.

Obama said the two-month compromise is the only way to stop payroll taxes from going up by two percentage points.

"Now let's be clear," Obama said in a surprise appearance in theWhite House briefing room after the House vote. "The bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on January 1st. The only one."

First of all, this was a case of hostage taking. It's plain and simple. If the GOP had wanted to keep the payroll rate in place, all they had to do was vote for it. They insisted that it "had to be paid for." How does this square with their 30 year mantra that "tax cuts" pay for themselves by magically expanding growth? It doesn't and an obedient media is largely obliging them by not asking about that. More predictably and repulsively, they not only insisted that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was somehow related to the payroll tax rate, but they uniformly parroted each and every proven falsehood regarding that project.

What does it mean for you? The chart below shows it clearly.
Graphic via CNN

Taibbi Vs A Pernicious Meme

Dec 20th, 2011

Matt Taibbi's takes aim at one of worst lies regarding the financial crisis:

"The notion that what Wall Street firms did was merely unethical and not illegal is not just mistaken but preposterous: most everyone who works in the financial services industry understands that fraud right now is not just pervasive but epidemic, with many of the biggest banks committing entire departments to the routine commission of fraud and perjury – every single one of the major banks, for instance, devotes significant manpower to robosigning affidavits for foreclosures and credit card judgments, acts which are openly and inarguably criminal.

Banks and hedge funds routinely withhold derogatory information about the instruments they sell, they routinely trade on insider information or ahead of their own clients’ orders, and corrupt accounting is so rampant now that industry analysts have begun to figure in estimated levels of fraud in their examinations of the public disclosures of major financial companies."

And yet, many of our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle continue to hamper stronger regulation of almost any kind.

Quote Of The Day

Dec 20th, 2011

"Apparently people don't like the truth, but I do like it; I like it because it upsets a lot of people. If you show them enough times that their arguments are bullshit, then maybe just once, one of them will say, 'Oh! Wait a minute - I was wrong.' I live for that happening. Rare, I assure you."
-- Lemmy Kilmister

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shark Jumping Over At RedState

Dec 19th, 2011

Ten popular RedState bloggers have not simply issued a joint endorsement of Rick Perry today, they have all but declared him zombie-Reagan. No, seriously. HERE it is.

I would very much like to know how founder Erick Erickson feels about the gush-fest. Earlier this month, he wrote a very sober piece on why he was not planning to make any sweeping endorsement:

"I would prefer instead to tell you exactly what I think about each of the candidates, good or bad, and let the chips fall where they may. There are few honest brokers in this. I get accused all the time of being for one candidate or another. While I have my biases, I use the Horserace post and my other writings to call the race as I see it. Not endorsing anyone helps."

Say what you will about Erickson's politics and, boy, I have said plenty, this post impressed me when he first released it. Here's the kicker:

"Lastly, and in all honesty, this field of candidates deeply depresses me. I have this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that we’re on the verge of having God hand us 1980 all over again and this time making John Anderson the Republican nominee.

I can see a day soon on the horizon where I just give up and focus on House and Senate races instead of the top race."

It is as honest a thing as I've read from one of the right's true hyper-partisans.

Now comes the gaggle of goofs who provide him a lot of content. They have signed to their names to document with all-American gems like this

"The one knock on Perry is that his poor debate performances and periodic campaign trail gaffes will open him to the same vulnerabilities in office as President Bush: an inability to respond to criticism or explain his own policies. That’s a fair concern, but it should not be overstated. First, Perry’s reputation in Texas is very different from Bush’s. Bush was all about bipartisan bonhomie; Perry has left the state littered with the political corpses of people who stood in his way."

Total partisanship and an arena "littered with the political corpses" of Americans with whom they disagree. What an ideal. A majority of the post is a series of assurances that Perry will crawl further up the American woman's uterus than any President has before and, wait for it, the Texas jobs lie.

Erickson should be proud of his piece from earlier in the month. As for as publishing this post? He should should be really embarrassed.

Quote Of The Day

Dec 19th, 2011

"I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master."
-- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Devil We Knew - Kim Jong Il Is Dead

Dec 18th, 2011
UPDATE: 12:02 AM CST 12/19/11  The North Korean thugs have, reportedly, just announced the ascension of this guy as the the world's latest trigger-finger-leader in the 'nuclear club.' We'll believe it when there is more substantial confirmation. Again, sleep tight.

Is THIS guy in charge? Image via
This is a dangerous night. Make no mistake. North Korean state media has formally announced that Kim Jong Il, the decadent strongman of that desperate and starving nation and, arguably, the despot of the world's most closed society, is dead.

Reports are available HERE, HERE and HERE.

It is unclear at this time whether or not any formal and stabilizing announcement was made regarding the succession of his third son, Kim Jong-un. This lack of clarity is ominous.

What Hitchens Taught Me...

Dec 18th, 2011
by. F. Grey Parker

Although I find it unlikely I will add much to the discussion of how the late Christopher Hitchens impacted contemporary critical thinking, I am compelled to thank him publicly for a few things.

I initially encountered his work when I was a decidedly more strident leftist. On my 17th birthday, I received my first subscription to The Nation magazine from my grandmother, a gift which was to become an annual tradition for the remainder of her life. The magazine had many great writers at the time. I was particularly hopeful to find some new and eloquently-raked muck by Alexander Cockburn in each issue. But, it was Hitchens' essays which began to impact me more than those of others.

Over It

Dec 18th, 2011

Via Gallup 12/16/2011

"With the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses serving as the kickoff of voting in the 2012 presidential election campaign, Americans would likely prefer to fast-forward to the end of the campaign than watch it unfold. Given a choice, 70% of Americans say they can't wait for the campaign to be over, while 26% can't wait for it to begin."

The results strike me as odd on one level; How anyone could be under the impression that campaign season had not already begun is a mystery to me. However, that nearly 3/4 of those polled are ready for it to be over comes as no surprise.

We Can't Take Care Of Our Own

Dec 18th, 2011

The sad state of our veterans.


Newt Watch - Full On Fascism

Dec 18th, 2011

Even before Newt Gingrich's remarks regarding the judiciary during the most recent GOP debate (we live-blogged it HERE), he had already provoked criticism over his distorted notions of the separation of powers. Notably, former George W. Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey called them"dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off-the-wall and would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle."

As has always been the case with Newt, when faced with any intelligent criticism, he doubles down. In a conference call with the press yesterday, he vowed that, as President, he would simply ignore any Supreme Court ruling with which he disagrees.

Russel Berman notes:

"Gingrich’s position represents, in effect, a direct challenge to the interpretation of Marbury v. Madison, the seminal 1803 Supreme Court decision that established the principle of judicial review and cemented the high court as the ultimate arbiter of whether congressional or executive acts are constitutional."

This is classic Gingrich; throw bombs and grin as they go off around our political landscape. We should be used to it.

However, his appearance on today's Face The Nation program was worse than merely reasserting an anti-Constitutional position. When asked about the "practical" dilemmas inherent in his proposal that congressional subpoenas be issued to judges whenever he disagrees with them, he said, "sure," he'd have judges arrested and forcibly compelled to explain themselves... politically.

Quote Of The Day - Here and Now Edition

Dec 18th, 2011

"One sometimes hears of people who try to model their writing or their persona on Christopher Hitchens’ example.

The results are usually absurd and sometimes perverse. Christopher did not offer a model of what to think.

He offered a model of how to think – and how to live. Fully. Fearlessly. Joyously. And then, alas too soon, of how to die: without bluster but without flinching, boldly writing until the fingers moved no more."

-- from David Frum's remembrance of the late Christopher Hitchens

Newt Watch - On The Downside

Dec 18th, 2011

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall tracks the latest GOP frontrunner's decline:

"We’re at a critical moment in the 2012 Republican primary cycle. Not only are we less than three weeks before the Iowa Caucuses. We’re also likely to find out in the next several days whether we really have a Romney-Gingrich race or whether Gingrich is yet another flash-in-the-pan whose numbers spiked and then collapsed. The bettors at Intrade have clearly made up their mind for the latter option. A few days ago, Gingrich almost overtook Romney. But tonight the odds give Romney almost a 65% shot at securing the nomination and Gingrich just under a 15% chance."

Marshall has several interactive charts marking Newt's peak and recent descent in the pools.

Quote Of The Day

Dec 18th, 2011

Photo by Steven Siewert via
"I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves."
-- Christopher Hitchens

Totally Random Let's All Stay Sane Moment

Dec 18th, 2011

It has been nearly 16 years since the final Calvin and Hobbes strip appeared. It is sorely missed. The video tribute below recreates Calvin's delightfully ghoulish world of snow-creations... just in time for Christmas.
Via io9:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Dec 17th, 2011

Con man predating upon delusion
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

-- Carl Sagan

Friday, December 16, 2011

Totally Random Let's All Stay Sane Moment

Dec 17th, 2011

This may be the best rap ever recorded... by a guy making pancakes... for real...

Perry Watch - "Bum Steer" Edition

Dec 16th, 2011

As much as I am still trying to come to grips with the lunatic display that was last night's GOP "debate" (we live-blogged it HERE), it was more than clear that Perry is done.

I don't merely think that his political career is over nationally, I have been increasingly convinced that Texas is preparing to wash its hands of him altogether.

Regarding Allen West's Godwin Violation

Dec 16th, 2011

Earlier, we nominated Rep. Allen West (R-FL) for a Godwin Award following his conflation of the Democratic Party's "propaganda machine" with Goebbels.

Steve Benen chimes in:

"Now, I think it’s fair to say most objective, independent observers would agree that Allen West is stark raving mad, which suggests his comments are not to be taken especially seriously.

But just for the sake of conversation, let’s note a couple of things. First, I think it’s called the Democratic Party. If West is going to be in Congress, he should probably take a moment to learn the parties’ names.

Second, earlier this year, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) made a passing reference to Goebbels when going after Republican rhetoric, and Fox News was apoplectic. Megyn Kelly, in particular, devoted quite a bit of time to covering the comment, and I can’t wait to see — in the interests of being fair and balanced — how much time she invests in criticizing Allen West for the same misdeed.

And finally, even if we put aside the Nazi garbage, what on earth is West talking about? Democrats are good at message dissemination? Democrats“have an incredible propaganda machine”? Since when?

I’ve been watching Democratic politics for as long as I can remember. The party has plenty of strengths, but the development of an “incredible propaganda machine” isn’t one of them."

Note To Repressive Regimes...

Dec 16th, 2011

China's continued efforts to marginalize and divert attention from one of their dissidents was not likely well served by members of their security force attempting to kick Christian Bale's ass.

Melinda Liu writes:

"Rural Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, once asked me whether U.S. films accurately portrayed American life—and specifically whether police brutality was as common as it seemed. He could never have dreamed that, a decade later, Academy Award winner Christian Bale would be roughed up by Chinese security guards as the American actor attempted to visit Chen—and that Bale would be in China on a publicity tour for a movie, The Flowers of War,that the Beijing regime is heavily promoting in hopes it’ll earn China its first Oscar."

Video via CNN

Godwin's Law Violation Award Nominee

Dec 16th, 2011

"If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine."

-- Rep Allen West (R-FL) demonstrating his proficiency in crazy-talk... again

Goodbye Hitch

Dec 16th, 2011

Christopher Hitchens 1949 -2011
Photo by Gasper Tringale via
Only days ago, Vanity Fair posted an essay by Christopher Hitchens from their forthcoming January issue. I wondered at the time if it might not be his last?

It was. 

"I am attracted to the German etymology of the word “stark,” and its relative used by Nietzsche,stärker, which means “stronger.” In Yiddish, to call someone a shtarker is to credit him with being a militant, a tough guy, a hard worker. So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline. I repeat, this is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion. It is our common fate. In either case, though, one can dispense with facile maxims that don’t live up to their apparent billing."

In this final essay, he quotes gloomily from poet John Betjeman's "Five O'Clock Shadow." It may have seemed fitting at the time, but there is another Betjeman poem which, it seems to me, better sums the total of Hitchens' life and work

The Planster's Vision

Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,
Pouring their music through the branches bare,
From moon-white church-towers down the windy air
Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.

Remove those cottages, a huddled throng!
Too many babies have been born in there,
Too many coffins, bumping down the stair,
Carried the old their garden paths along.

I have a Vision of The Future, chum,
The worker's flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
And Surging Millions hear the Challenge come
From microphones in communal canteens
'No Right! No wrong! All's perfect, evermore.'

There will be no other Christopher Hitchens.